As a mom prone to sweating the small stuff, wrappers are driving me crazy: Granola bar wrappers, juice boxes and pouches, the foil lids on yogurt containers and the wrappers containing those ubiquitous 100-calorie packs of yummy, sinful junk food.
We are swimming in wrappers that can’t be recycled or composted, and the onslaught is hindering my goal of sending no more than two tall-kitchen garbage bags to the landfill each month.
Yes, some wrappers can be recycled into tote bags and other whimsical items. I’m waiting for the good folks at TerraCycle to send me the envelopes to save juice pouches and some candy and cookie wrappers.
Meanwhile, compostable packaging is coming along, though it’s not quite ready for prime time. Critics say packaging made from corn interferes with food production and is more environmentally cruel than plastic when it winds up in the landfill. Supporters insist the absence of petroleum makes the latest innovations a far better choice. In my experience, the supposedly compostable to-go cup I got at a local restaurant has been in my tumbler for months and shows no sign of breaking down.
The maker of SunChips has promised a 100 percent compostable bag next year, and other snack-food brands may follow suit.
The more obvious solution is to do without the foods that come wrapped so tightly you have to rip them open with your teeth. The so-called food contained within is almost always bad for you. Who needs cereal bars when you can have a bowl of cereal with milk? Why granola bars when you can make a big batch of frugal and healthy granola? And why bother with those 100-calorie packs when you know you’re going to eat at least three in one sitting?
Simply put, I’m a weak-willed mom, exhausted from trekking to and from the pool in the Atlanta heat. I need convenient snacks. Well, I shouldn’t say I need them. I want them. I prefer them. I tried making my own applesauce-oatmeal cookies and I ended up gobbling them up in two days.
Cereal bars, especially the organic ones, don’t taste very good. My daughter eats them, but they pose little temptation for me. Homemade granola, on the other hand, wouldn’t last more than a couple of days in my house.
At a time when my family is trying to ease the landfill’s burden, I’m also trying to fend off weight gain by controlling my portions. The two goals aren’t going hand in hand.
I’m weaning myself off packaged snacks, in hopes of gaining some self-control, eating healthier and sending less junk to the dump. Taking a break from packaged goods will also save money; the cost per ounce is much higher when small portions are individually wrapped. As if I need another reason to hate wrappers, they are light and prone to blowing out of trash cans, strollers and diaper bags, contributing to neighborhood litter.
As an alternative, I invested in some shatterproof glass containers and am filling them with snacks, sometimes organic, bought in bulk. Not as healthy or green as making snacks from scratch, but it’s a start. Glass containers are a better choice than Ziploc bags, which I also plow through even though I rinse and reuse. I plan to fill my glass containers with fruit, baby carrots, edamame and other good stuff.
As I tear off strips of masking tape to label the glass containers for my daughter’s playschool, I ask myself — as I so often do — if I’ve crossed into obsessive mommying, hyper-parenting as some call the tendency to over-analyze every aspect of childrearing.
Yes, a cereal wrapper is a small thing. But it’s the little things that bring me joy, such as listening to my daughter belt out, “I’m a Little Teapot.” And it’s the little things, like finding a sticky juice pouch wrapper at the bottom of my purse and having no option but to trash it, that drive me bonkers. No matter how much I’ve accomplished through recycling and composting, I feel deflated when I toss the foil lid on a plastic pudding cup in the trash. (Jell-O brand vanilla pudding is another of my fake-food weaknesses.)
Reducing the number of wrappers I toss in the garbage won’t make a measurable difference in our landfill. But it’s a change that will give me the tiniest bit of peace of mind. These days, peace of mind is no small thing.
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